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Colonial League to use phased in start

The fall sports season continued to take shape when the Colonial League tentatively approved phased in start dates on Monday.

With the announcement also came confirmation that the league’s cooperative football scheduling agreement with the Schuylkill League was delayed until 2021.

“The phased in approach that we discussed in the meeting was important to a lot of schools,” said Saucon Valley Athletic Director and Colonial League Vice President Bob Frey. “And just taking into consideration some of the outlines that we have from our low, mid and high risk sports, and being able to give them some time.

“We’ve been practicing. Many of our schools have been out with our voluntary summer workouts and they have been going very well, but I think looking at that phased in approach was important to a lot of our schools to make sure that we have all of the data that we need to make sure that sports are safe for our kids, and I think we saw that today with our 12-1 vote to do that.”

Northern Lehigh was the only school to vote it down.

NL Principal Robert Vlasaty presented a motion to develop a league schedule based on sports risk classification, with low risk sports to begin competition on time or as soon as possible, per each school district. The motion was for medium and high contact risk sports not to begin competition prior to Oct. 1, with practices and contact drills decided per individual district, with each schedule required to be shared with every superintendent in the Colonial League and allow for them to provide feedback prior to the league voting on approval.

The motion died for the lack of a second.

Starting dates for Colonial League sports are as follows:

• Golf will begin on Aug. 27.

• Tennis will begin on Aug. 31.

• Cross country will begin on Sept. 11.

• Field hockey, volleyball and soccer will begin on Sept. 18.

• Football will begin on Sept. 25 with league contests.

For volleyball, field hockey, soccer and cross country, whatever the start date is, the schedules will run as they were.

But the decision also allows schools who want to play earlier in non-league contests the opportunity to do so.

“I think we certainly have the option, and that was part of the discussion when we took that vote, to leave that option open for schools,” Frey said. “So there may be some who elect to take that option and play some non-league contests before that 9/25 start date; you might see a majority of the schools stick with that date. But that option is open for schools that might decide to do that.

“Most sports do have some non-league options so, in theory, that’s a possibility for any of the sports.”

Putting the much anticipated Colonial-Schuylkill football merger on hold for another year, while not a surprise, was still disappointing for all parties.

“This is a tough situation, but the one constant has been the dialogue between their league president, Dr. Steve Toth, and obviously Kyle Spotts (Lehighton Director of Student Services and Planning, who is also the Schuylkill League Football Chairman) has been wonderful,” said Northwestern Athletic Director and Colonial League Treasurer Jason Zimmerman, who also serves as the District 11 Football Chairman. “We were very sensitive to each other’s needs; I kind of saw which road we were going down, talked to our executive officers a little bit and gave the Schuylkill League a heads up.

“We didn’t want to hold them back. I think they also gained a little bit more support in their league if they could stay a little more regional. Football is a tough one right now. It really is. What we voted on here gave the opportunity to schools like Northwestern and any other school that would like to start participating ASAP the opportunity to go out and seek some non-league games. And it gave the schools that want to start a little bit later to still salvage somewhat of a season. It’s the best of both worlds, I’m glad we came together on it, and neither the Schuylkill League or the Colonial League want to see that relationship dissipate and we’re already excited for the fall of 2021.”

In addition to Northwestern, Palisades, Pen Argyl, Wilson and Notre Dame (Green Pond) are also likely candidates to be seeking contests prior to the Colonial League’s Sept. 25 start date.

The Tigers were supposed to face Tamaqua in their originally scheduled season opener on Aug. 28.

“You might see some games right out of that gate,” said Zimmerman. “Maybe we’ll reach out to Tamaqua and see if they want to still go.”

As it pertains to fans attending events, Zimmerman said he doesn’t expect it, though “stranger things have happened.”

“I don’t know how to prepare for that, to be honest with you,” he said. “It’s going to be crazy, and if you saw some of the events that have actually happened with fans, there’s games being stopped in the middle of them because they’re not social distancing, they’re not wearing masks.

“I think a bigger issue is, if they do incorporate that, how are we going to issue passes and things like that.”

The league is expected to issue guidance regarding spectators prior to the season starting.